History of Sandusky. Part 1: The Johnston years


The Sandusky estate was established in 1808 by 38 year-old Charles Johnston, the third son of Scottish emigrant Peter Johnston. Charles grew up in Prince Edward County at the Johnston family home named “Longwood.” Peter Johnston donated 100 acres for the establishment of Hamden-Sydney College. In 1949 another college, the State Teachers College, renamed itself Longwood University after the Johnston estate.

In his late teens Charles began clerking for a Mr. John May of Petersburg, Virginia. It was during his employment with May that he experienced a life-changing event which provided the name for Johnston’s future home in Campbell County, Virginia. In 1790 May and Johnston organized a journey to Kentucky to survey some lands owned by May. The previous year they traveled by land however this time they decided to use the Ohio River. Along the way they were attacked 40 odd hostile Indians, a mix of Shawnee, Delaware, Wyandot, and Cherokee. Two of the group were killed outright and the remainder taken prisoner. For several weeks Johnston was trundled by his captors across the Ohio Territory until finally reaching a small trading village in Sandusky. A French trader took pity on Johnston and purchased him from bondage for the price of “600 silver broaches.” Johnston received his freedom on his 21st birthday, about one month from the day of his capture. After a long journey through the Great Lakes and down the eastern seaboard, Johnston returned to his home in Virginia. During the journey he stopped in New York City where he was interviewed by President George Washington and made a deposition about his capture and captivity before Secretary of War Henry Knox.